Green Building  

Like A Rock

Shaking up Ottawa's housing market with an earthquake-proof green home
 The home is located in the heritage Glebe district

Written by RGB Group Staff Writer

Rising up among its neighbors like the crane-enabled steel cage of a U2 stage-set, the latest green home project by The RGB Group in Ottawa, Canada’s national capital, is a home that will withstand a quake five times more powerful than the one that shook the City and damaged buildings last summer. Ottawa is ranked third for earthquake risk among Canadian urban centers, and last summer’s quake was the strongest to hit the region in a century.

Located in the City’s trendy, heritage Glebe district on the site of a knockdown wooden frame house, the new steel-framed four-level duplex is also being built to meet the stringent LEED Platinum green building standard.

Rolf Baumann, founder and CEO of The RGB Group, says, “The RGB Group’s motto is ‘real green buildings, for life’ and this project lives up to that billing.”

The steel-structured home sits on a lot measuring just 25 feet by 100, and Baumann says the finished project will be a 4,000 square foot duplex. There are minimal interior walls, so that means the steel structure had to be carefully designed to carry the load.

The RGB Group’s design architect for this project is Malcolm Wildeboer, Principal at Ottawa’s Vandenberg & Wildeboer Architects.

 “The constraints of the narrow site led to unique design solutions ensuring the spaciousness expected of a high-end urban duplex. And close proximity to the lot line required the use of non-combustible materials including the steel stud framing, which in turn led to the development of an entire light gauge steel design,” says Wildeboer.

When completed this fall, the new duplex will match the quake ratings on commercial buildings, and leads the way in exceeding Ottawa’s recently bolstered seismic residential building standards.

One of the many requirements to meet the LEED Platinum standard for green buildings is that all the steel on the project must be at least 80% recycled content. Another unique green product being used in the home is Roxul, a mixture including waste rock from the mining industry that will be applied on the outside of the home to provide insulation and act as a firewall. Inside the walls is locally sourced CertainTeed fiberglass insulation, which is made from 84% recycled materials and is formaldehyde free.

Baumann says all these extra measures add 20% to 30% to the building costs. Yet he feels that the savings, such as 25% less waste, more precise construction with fewer return trips to the site by contractors, lower insurance costs, fewer maintenance costs and a much longer lifespan, all mean the home makes economic sense.

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